In the wide, wild world of motorcycles, trials bikes usually don’t show up on the radar. Which is too bad, because trialers often contain some of the latest technology before we see it on mainstream models. That’s exactly the case with the OSSA TR280i, a 272cc trials bike with, among other cool features, a fuel-injected twostroke engine.
Why are certain types of innovations often found on trials motorcycles? Because trials bikes need to be ultracompact, extremely lightweight and exceptionally throttle-responsive so that expert riders can perform their amazing feats—climbing, jumping and bouncing over giant boulders and scaling cliff faces that you’d need a bag of rock-climbing gear to conquer on foot. There are also more practical uses for mere mortals: The lighter the motorcycle, the easier it is to handle, making featherweight trials bikes great learning tools for mastering basic off-road riding techniques.
Back in the 1970s, OSSA produced a championship caliber 250cc trials bike, the Mick Andrews Replica. The company, based in Barcelona, Spain, dropped out of the trials game a few years later and out of the entire motorcycle market in the 1980s. But OSSA (www.ossaworld.com) has been reborn under new ownership, and its very first product, the TR280i, was good enough to finish fifth in the 2011 World Trials Championship.
The use of batteryless electronic injection helped OSSA’s engineers move key parts of the TR280i to more strategic locations. Similar to what Yamaha did with its YZ450F, the top end is reversed, with the intake at the front and exhaust at the rear. The cylinder is tilted rearward 35 degrees, allowing lighter parts such as the air filter to be placed higher. The fuel tank is located on the front downtubes of the aluminum/chrome-moly frame where you’d normally find the radiator; the radiator, meanwhile, sits behind the tank. And after exiting the engine at the rear, the exhaust system snakes around and terminates in a silencer that looks like an inner rear fender.
These design changes are intended to optimize the 280’s center of mass, but their effect is harder to detect on a trials bike than they would be on a motocrosser or some other heavier machine; the slower speeds of trials don’t require the usual kinds of leaning and steering.
But when doing the things a trials bike is intended to do—bounding through a boulder garden, climbing impossible-looking terrain, attempting to zap a K-rail—the OSSA is exceptionally easy to keep under control. Much of that is due to the bike’s 147-pound dry weight (152 with its 0.8-gallon gas tank full), some of it to its snappy throttle response. Overall, the TR280i does a great job for average trials riders; some top pro riders may feel it falls just a wee bit short.
Nevertheless, it’s good to see OSSA getting back into the market, even if it is in the small segment of observed trials. The company also is building an enduro model, and we can’t wait to find out first-hand how it works, as well.